A proposed development at Smiths Beach near Yallingup is almost certain to be rejected with the State Government commissioning a review of the area's planning policy.
During the election campaign, Labor said the proposed development, covering 40ha and comprising 230 residential lots and 460 holiday units, was far too big. The party said it would block it if it got into power. The developers temporarily withdrew the proposal in February in the face of community opposition. But anti-development activists feared they would bide their time before reintroducing the proposal with minor changes.
Planning Minister Alannah MacTiernan said the Government was committed to better planning for the WA coastline and the proposed development was not suitable for the pristine area. "I have asked for the planning policy to be reviewed, in consultation with the Shire of Busselton, to ensure no development of this size could ever be considered for such a sensitive locality," she said. "There is no doubt some tourism and residential development would be appropriate for the area but it must be done in sympathy with the environment and community sentiment."
The development, which was to be built by Canal Rocks Pty Ltd, was approved by the WA Planning Commission. But former Busselton shire councillors Bob McKay and Shelley Cullen have said they were duped by the commission. Both were steering committee members for the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge statement of planning policy but said they had not heard discussion of a big development at the beach.
The draft strategy for the Leeuwin-Naturaliste region released in 1997 said any development in the area should include fewer than 500 total short-term and permanent residents but this was later changed to allow the proposed Canal Rocks development. The move outraged local residents and councillors, as well as tourism operators who had seen more modest proposals knocked back.
Ms MacTiernan has asked for details of how the document was changed under the previous government to approve the project. She said it was anticipated the outcome of the review of the Leeuwin-Naturaliste Ridge plan would prevent any developer from relying on the policy to justify any application or appeal. "Most importantly, we want to involve communities more intensively in consultation," she said.
The development is one of several divisive projects on the South-West coast including a $30 million estate planned for Gnarabup Beach and plans for smaller developments at Injidup and Moses Rock.
The population of the South-West coast is expected to rise 60 per cent in the next 20 years.
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